Situated on the northern edge of the Laikipia plateau, Ol Malo is nestled into a rugged escarpment looking out across the time-honored lands of Kenya’s Northern Frontier District. These miles of dense thorn bush are favoured by the shy, elusive antelope from which the lodge takes its name, “the place of the Greater Kudu”. An ancient land inhabited by wildlife and peoples of a time long ago, undisturbed and living by the rhythm of nature and as part of this untamed and beautiful landscape is Ol Malo.
Ol Malo is a striking building in an outstanding location – natural local materials sculpted into a warm and hospitable lodge set among the curves of a rocky hillside surveying one of the great views of the world.
Comfortable and accommodating sitting and dining rooms provide shady terraces for protection from the sun – and open fireplaces for the cooler evenings. Smooth lawns and carefully tended shrubberies sweep down to a cliff edge, providing a vantage point for activity at the watering hole and salt lick below. A maze of slated pathways wind down to four rock and olive wood cottages.
Each double room has its own veranda and complete privacy. Large picture windows frame a wild, constantly changing landscape – clouds scud across the sky, stately eagles wheel and glide on thermals above the plains. An infinity pool adds to the beauty as well as the amenity of this place.
Built, owned and managed by Colin and Rocky Francombe, with the help of the Samburu people, Ol Malo has established a reputation in the world of eco-tourism that far exceeds its modest size and is a result of the Francombe family’s commitment to personal service and attention to detail. For just a handful of guests at a time, Ol Malo offers the perfect mix of comfort, luxury and life in harmony with nature.
To stay at Ol Malo is to live by a different rhythm – measure the day by the timeworn patterns of nature. Wake up to see the awe inspiring sunrise, framing the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Kenya. Celebrate the new day with a dawn ride into the wilderness to view the animals as they awake. Feel the night’s chill burn off with the rising of the great equatorial sun while enjoying a bush breakfast. Keep the tempo of the world by the roll of the camel’s stride. Visit the colorful Samburu nomads of the North and sink with the dying sun into the waters of the pool. At night luxuriate in the peace and comfort of Ol Malo and tune into the magical sounds of wild Africa while dining under an ancient starscape.
To stay at Ol Malo is to abandon oneself and live by another drumbeat in a wild and beautiful land.
An experienced Samburu guides will take you on a nature walk to show you the Little Five – ant lion, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, rhino beetle, buffalo weaver. Or you can choose to learn about the plants the Samburu use for medicine and food. Or stand in amazement at the sight of the 330 named species of birds found at Ol Malo.
Elephant, buffalo, Eland, Beisa Oryx, Grant gazelle, Impala, common and grey Zebra, reticulated Giraffe, Lelwels Hartebeeste Gerenuk, Greater Kudu, Water Buck, Klipspringer, Steenbok, Gunthers Dik Dik, Warthog, Wild dog, Leopard, Cheetah, Lion, spotted and striped Hyena: where else on earth can you go out for a drive in an open vehicle – with a Samburu guide and driver – and be virtually certain to see such a wide-ranging selection of elusive, wild game?
Horseback & camel riding, tubing & mountain biking
Tube in tyres down the rapids or fish for catfish and barbel. Go horse or camel riding on the plains – a wonderful way to see the game, which won’t flee from horses and camels: you get very close to the action indeed. For the more adventurous – horse riding down towards the river; cross-country mountain biking; running with a Samburu warrior to set the pace.Cultural visits to local communities
Pay a welcome visit to our neighbours, the Samburu people. Visit their nursery school. Visit to the Ol Malo workshop to see the women beading or the children painting.Visits to local school
Four bunk beds are set up in the leopard blind to allow you to spend the night there in the hope of catching a glimpse of the elusive leopard. For the extremely adventurous.
Bush breakfasts & lunches
Horizon swimming pool
Ol Malo Trust is a charitable trust set up in response to the great hardships caused by the drought that ravaged Kenya between 1999-2001 – the country’s worst drought in living memory. Whole regions were devastated by the disaster, but none more so than the dry, desert wilderness of Samburuland, where the Samburu lost most of their cattle and therefore the major part of their livelihood. Born and brought up in the neighbouring area of Laikipia, Julia Francombe found herself caught up in the situation. Initially she provided drought relief for the Samburu from her own resources and those of the family, but soon came to acknowledge that a fund-raising organisation was essential, and Ol Malo Designs and Ol Malo Trust were formed.
The aim of the Ol Malo Trust is to contribute to the preservation of the Samburu people in terms of qualities and health in such a way that the Samburus are independent, strong and empowered to live their lives in the way that they strongly desire and choose.
This means helping the Samburu to maintain their traditional values – including honesty, kindness, hospitality and respect, along with their nomadic behaviour and traditional skills – while assisting them with health and educational issues in a way that will avoid their dependency upon the Trust.
The Trust acknowledges the law of unintended consequences and does not intend to introduce programmes that will interfere with the Samburu people’s traditional culture. It is dedicated to the survival of the wildlife that has lived among the people for thousands of years.
At present we are working in two areas – Muridjo and Kipsing. Our vision is to take these current projects, which have been created as a blue print, and multiply them, moving north throughout Samburuland. As each project area reaches the ‘end of the beginning’ we will move on to a new area and begin all over again, leaving a sustainable infrastructure behind us.
Elephants carve paths through Samburuland on their annual northerly migration, utilising available sources of food and water as they go. They teach their young to follow this route, generation after generation. It is these paths which we will follow as we move north, implementing our model. The elephants are ultimately linked to what we are trying to achieve: an environment where people, their livestock, and wild animals live together in symbiosis, and share and benefit from the available resources.
Each Ol Malo project is able to function on its own, yet a comprehensive and fully interlinked group of projects works far more successfully: addressing the ground-roots, overall problems faced by the Samburu, rather than individual issues which can only be treated superficially. Our aim is to increase the beauty, strength and worth of each project through their union.
When Julia left University she started employing six women in the Sampiripiri Arts Workshop – initiating the Naaripisho beading programme. The relationship she had with them led her to visit their tribal homes – manyattas – where she began to understand the culture and the problems that these people were facing. These women also began to bring their sick children in to the workshop, to ask for help – among them a number of tuberculosis sufferers requiring long-term monitoring, and many suffering from drought-related ailments. Looking after the sickly children led Julia to start up the L’chekuti Painting Programme, so that the children could come every day for monitoring and provision of the correct medicine and nutritious food [during the 2006 drought, 600 children came to the Arts Workshop to receive help].
The Francombe family knew they couldn’t employ every woman who asked for a job. At this time (1999) there was a severe drought, so the Sayen E Ndaa ‘Beads For Food’ Programme was established, which provided employment for every women in the surrounding area. During this time there were 300 – 400 women on the programme.
Because of the trust building up between Ol Malo and the Samburu women and children, the people were coming in for help with numerous medical problems – including the eye disease, trachoma, and severe leg and foot disorders caused by jiggers and snake bites. Medical projects set up in response included the Ol Malo Eye Project (Lpapit Longonyek Trachoma Eradication Programme) and the Ol Malo Leg / Foot Project.
In order to eradicate trachoma, which is spread by poor health and hygiene, it is necessary for the people to have access to clean water. Having spent more and more time with the people, and having seen firsthand the conflicts caused by lack of water between the people and the wildlife, the Trust decided to undertake a survey, ultimately setting up the Silango Water Project to provide a water source within 30 minutes walk of every manyatta.
By this stage the drought was over; but it became clear that the L’chekuti project should continue indefinitely. It was also clear that the children needed more than just a painting and feeding programme – hence the idea of the Nkera Education Programmes, providing children with the opportunity to attend nursery school and obtain an education up to primary level.
In 2006 the Ol Malo Lodge and Ol Malo Trust received the highest accolade awarded in‘The First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards’: the largest of their kind in the world. Organised by online travel agent responsibletravel.com, in association with World Travel Market, ‘The Times’ and ‘Geographical Magazine’, and supported by Conservation International, the Awards recognise organisations in the travel industry that are making a significant commitment to responsible tourism.
Ol Malo Trust is internationally recognised as a Kenya registered charity for the work it is undertaking. There is a registered UK charity: Ol Malo Charitable Trust (UK), and a Foundation in the U.S.: Ol Malo Foundation, Inc., with similar aims and objectives.
Colin Francombe was born and raised in Kenya and for 23 years managed a 90,000 acre ranch in northern Kenya. As well as raising cattle and sheep, he became increasingly involved in conservation, creating a safe environment for wildlife and especially then for the endangered black rhino. In the past he helped the Kenya Wildlife Service as an honorary game warden, he has chased cattle rustlers across Samburuland, built water reservoirs, graded roads, and explored vast areas of Northern Kenya on foot, in the process developing into a committed naturalist. His knowledge of Kenya, nature and the world is vast and provides many an entertaining story under a thorn tree.
Rocky Francombe was born and raised in Kenya and after a teaching career set up a small safari business before marrying Colin in 1971. She has always worked alongside Colin working hard in the administration of the ranches they have worked on and raising their three children; Anne, Julia & Andrew on a remote North Kenyan Ranch with no communications.
Colin and Rocky have always dreamed of owning their own piece of Africa, they moved to Ol Malo in 1991 and carved a future for themselves and their children in a harsh a rugged area of Northern Kenya. Ol Malo is the Francombe home, built hosted and run by the family, even the grandchildren play a part in Ol Malo.
Hussein, Laban and Leuya our Samburu guides and Samwel a Turkana – The heart of our guiding team.
Having grown up in the bush and each with a brilliant personality they are Eager to share their knowledge; Hussein, our loyal head guide with a brilliant sense of humor; Laban, a fountain of knowledge holds his bronze certificate for guiding and is working towards his silver. Leuya is the newest member of the team, and learning fast. Samwel walks with all our guests, he comes from the tough Turkana tribe in the deserts of Northern Kenya. With his incredible eyesight, knowledge of animal behavior and experience in handling a rifle he is an invaluable member of the team.
The Ol Malo family is never complete without its animal members.
Tandala has been with Ol Malo since the beginning. She is a Greater Kudu orphan whose mother was killed by lion when she was born in 1993. Hands raised by Rocky, the Francombes are now her family and although free to roam she hangs around the cottages and kitchen, especially during teatime when the chocolate cake appears.
Scruffy is Samwel’s trusty sidekick. Half Tibetan and half Cain terrier she adores Samwel and would follow him to the ends of the world if he decided to lead our guests in that direction!